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Marguerite of Navarre: 1492-1549

Marguerite was born in Angoulême on 11 April 1492, the eldest child of Charles, Count of Angoulême and Louise of Savoy. Her father was a direct descendant of Charles V, and a claimant to the crown. Marguerite was tutored from her earliest childhood by excellent teachers She received a comprehensive education in Latin, Italian, Spanish, German, as well as Greek and Hebrew and she even learnt Latin. In 1515, her brother was crowned Francis I of France and Marguerite joined him at the court. After the death of her first husband in 1525, she married Henry II of Navarre.

As a generous patron of the arts, Marguerite befriended and protected many artists and writers and arranged for artists such as Leonardo da Vinci and Benvenuto Cellini to work at the King's court. She, herself, wrote many poems and plays and the classic collection of stories, the Heptameron, as well as a remarkably intense religious poem, Miroir de l'âme pécheresse (or Mirror of the Sinful Soul). She was an outstanding figure of the French Renaissance. Samuel Putnam called her "The First Modern Woman". The writer, Pierre Brantôme, said of her: "She was a great princess. But in addition to all that, she was very kind, gentle, gracious, charitable, a great dispenser of alms and friendly to all."

She encouraged reform within the church and the need to reinterpret the Scriptures and translate them into French. She herself habitually retired to meditate and pray, and composed numerous works of devotional poetry. She was a mediator between Roman Catholics and Protestants (including John Calvin) did her best to protect the Reformers and dissuaded Francis I from intolerant measures as long as she could. She also inspired debate among theologians for her radical reform ideals. However, the conservative Paris university, the Sorbonne, disapproved of her outspokenness. In her later years, she withdrew from political life and devoted herself completely to letters and poetry.

Wijngaards Institute for Catholic ResearchThis website is maintained by the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research.

The Institute is known for issuing academic reports and statements on relevant issues in the Church. These have included scholars' declarations on the need of collegiality in the exercise of church authority, on the ethics of using contraceptives in marriage and the urgency of re-instating the sacramental diaconate of women.

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